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Monday, May 27, 2024 | Back issues
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Special committee to consider impeaching South Dakota’s attorney general

South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg struck and killed a pedestrian with his car in 2020.

(CN) — South Dakota lawmakers took the first steps down a path Tuesday that may end with the impeachment and removal of the state’s attorney general.

The state House established a select committee to recommend whether it should impeach attorney general Jason Ravnsborg, who pleaded no contest in August to two misdemeanors in a crash that killed Joseph Boever, 55.

Ravnsborg was driving home from a political fundraiser on the night he struck Boever, who was walking along the shoulder of a U.S. Highway 14 near Highmore, South Dakota. The attorney general has maintained he did not realize he struck a man until he returned to the scene the next day and discovered his body, according to the Associated Press.

Authorities have said Ravnsborg was not intoxicated when he hit Boever and was not on his phone.

Similar to the process in the U.S. Congress, the state House would vote to impeach, and if a simple majority approves, the state Senate would vote on removal, which would require a two-thirds majority vote to remove Ravnsborg, said Michael Card, associate professor of political science at the University of South Dakota.

“It’s never been done before in South Dakota,” Card said. “There have been times before they have talked about impeachment, but it has never been taken to the point they have had articles of impeachment drafted. So they are making it up as they go.”

These are interesting political times in the Mount Rushmore State. On Tuesday, the Legislature was working on two competing redistricting maps, one each from the House and the Senate — the first time in decades there were competing proposals. The effort stalled Tuesday night after the House Republican leader suffered a medical emergency.

And lawmakers, Card said, were probably bracing for a Frontline episode to be aired on South Dakota Public Broadcasting on Tuesday night – it was about the Pandora Papers, which revealed that bankers and others had pushed legislation in the statehouse to make South Dakota a destination for foreign wealth.

“I think people are a little edgy,” Card said.

Ravnsborg is a Republican in a conservative state where both houses of the Legislature are dominated by Republicans. But he is apparently not very popular. A recent poll found that 66 percent of voters surveyed believed the Legislature should remove him from office.

“There is much public opinion that believes he got by with a slap on the wrist,” Card said. “Public opinion is pretty strong against him.”

State attorneys have said they lacked the necessary evidence to pursue more serious charges, including vehicle manslaughter.

Ravnsborg is not the only elected official in South Dakota who has accidentally killed a man with his vehicle. Bill Janklow, who previously served four terms as governor, was in his first term as the state’s sole member of the U.S. House of Representatives in 2003 when, at the wheel of his Cadillac, he ran a stop sign near Flandreau, South Dakota, and collided with a motorcycle driven by Randolph Scott, killing him, the New York Times reported in Janklow's 2012 obituary. Janklow was convicted of manslaughter.; he resigned his seat and served a 100-day sentence.

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Categories / Government, Law, Politics

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